Thursday, October 20, 2011

Frazetta's Death Dealer Unmasked

Tor paperbacks contacted Frazetta in the 1980’s with the idea of producing a series of Death Dealer novels. They wanted some new oils to place on the covers. Frank liked the idea and immediately set to work to find a writer and he started doing a series of Death Dealer watercolor studies in a fresh new sketchbook. He numbered the studies consecutively as he finished them. Jim Silke was hired to write the books and Jim incorporated a lot of imagery from all the other works in the Frazetta body of art. After a number of these books were published Frank thought that it might be necessary to reveal the Death Dealer without his helmet. Frank said: “If this thing takes off, then the fans will want to see him. You can’t have him with his helmet on all the time. At some point the mystery has to end. I wanted to have the Death Dealer as a no-nonsense no-bullshit kind of guy. A hero with very strong features, sunken eyes, prominent cheekbones, just very strong features…hard, intense, intimidating. This is a guy who will kick your ass at a moment’s notice, like a jungle cat seeing his prey and IMMEDIATELY pouncing. No holding back…pure animal intensity. I only did the one drawing. It turned out pretty nice. I was happy with it.”

Alas, the books faded. I’m not sure if there were other money considerations at play in the demise of the series. It did motivate Frank to paint some incredible works. We should all be thankful for that. All the watercolor studies were given life as oils except for two. Those two studies have never been published. Frank never got around to painting them. One of the Death Dealer studies was painted as a left-handed oil during his last years. It has never been published or seen.

©2011 DocDave Winiewicz

9 comments:

  1. A very nice portrait , but in this case I just don't agree with Frank in that at some point the mystery has to end, When you see a great illusion performed , some part of you wonders " my God could I just have witnessed magic??", while another part wants to know how it was done . In some ways I'm not sure it's best to find out .

    With DD , you always wonder , does he , it even have a face - and so seeing that his face is another great but typical Frazetta face I think would have hurt the character.

    Al McLuckie

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  2. I agree with you, Al. Frank was thinking about future tie-ins with comic stories, etc. He thought this thing would last longer than it did.

    DAVE

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  3. It's a nice piece on its own, but I would have sooner associated it with Conan than the Death Dealer had you not told us the back story.

    Chris

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  4. "You don't pull the mask off the ol' Lone Ranger..."

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  5. Looks like what I figured from the description of the character in the novels James Silke wrote actually. It's torture knowing he did one last Death Dealer painting that no one has seen!I love all of Frank's work but his Death Dealer paintings hold a special place in my heart.

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  6. It'd been better had he remained forever a mystery...one would wonder eherther he was a human being or some type of apparition...

    The Phantom did that well, for decades, and it's one of the best features of the strip..

    JD

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  7. Joe:

    Frank was looking to do an oil with the face shown and perhaps a comics series. I agree that he should have kept the mystery.

    DAVE

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  8. The Death Dealer series died because Jim and Ellie had a falling out. She told me about it. Jim also told me about. Two people who refused to budge over what seemed to me was nothing more than a misunderstanding with Frank at the center and deciding for whatever reason to remain mum. Family dynamics. What a waste. The series was far better than I expected it to be. It's easily one of the best heroic but dark fantasy series to see print. When Ellie, then Jim told me what the falling out was over I didn't take a side, but it was dumb. I hope the family renegotiates and gets these reprinted.

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  9. Yes, indeed, Rick. But Frank hated Jim at the end for a lot of reasons. There was no possibility of reconciliation. The current family probably doesn't even know about a lot of the problems.

    As with most Frazetta business, there are many bodies in the road. Thanks.

    Dave

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